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Account-based marketing (ABM) continues to gain popularity among business-to-business (B2B) organizations looking to deepen engagement with specific accounts. In its 2016 State of ABM study, SiriusDecisions found that 92% of companies recognize ABM as a valuable solution to B2B marketing challenges.

However, for some of these B2B organizations, their efforts are falling short. It’s no coincidence many of these same organizations struggle to get a grasp on their data. In fact, SiriusDecisions found 60% of marketers consider the overall health of their data unreliable. What does data have to do with ABM success? In one word: everything.

B2B organizations have access to massive amounts of data from their internal marketing and sales activities, prospect and customer behaviors, and customer service information. Many also purchase data from external sources to augment existing data sets. But not all data is equal, and more often than not, a company’s data is dirty and incomplete. In Avention’s recent survey of B2B sales and marketing practitioners, we found just 31% of respondents feel that their organizations have the right data for sales and just 24% feel that they have the right data for marketing.

Data is the basis of successful account-based marketing, so before you implement your ABM strategy, take a good look at your data. Here are three key elements of a successful ABM strategy that illustrate the need for clean, accurate data:

1. Data Content = Personalization

At its core, ABM is about engaging key stakeholders from target accounts with strategic, personalized marketing and sales messages. This content may come in a number of different formats–ebooks, whitepapers, reports, to name a few–but it all must feel personalized to the individual target and account, and that requires sound data. Without this intelligence, your marketing and sales teams can’t understand each target prospect’s needs and challenges, and identify timely opportunities to respond with relevant content. They are essentially operating in the dark. Data-driven marketing provides the insights that enable your teams to deliver the right messages to the right targets at the right times to get from first click to final signature.

2. Sales and Marketing Need to Operate in Lockstep

Sales and marketing alignment has long been a challenge for B2B organizations, but with customer experience initiatives gaining ground, it’s now a priority. SiriusDecisions’ survey data shows all organizations engaging in an ABM strategy are at least somewhat aligned with sales, with 34% citing tight alignment.

ABM requires marketers to operate with the mindset of sales—identifying accounts and how to target them, bringing them to the table, and generating revenue from them. Marketers and sales need to be aligned to identify the right accounts and how to pursue them, but this is impossible without accurate data on your prospects and customers. You need to use data to score and segment accounts that have a high propensity to buy or fit the right parameters for your target market.

3. Segment to Find the Best Targets

Segmentation is mission-critical for successful ABM. You need to segment your target accounts based on data such as industry type, company size, revenue, number of employees and annual spend to identify the best targets. Paired with predictive analytics or sales intelligence, you can then look for specific behaviors that signal a prospect’s readiness to buy or your team can seek out prospects’ characteristics exhibited by your best customers. This data enables your teams to do a deep dive into each account and create targeted campaigns that engage your target accounts.

When it comes to successful account-based marketing, the importance of clean, accurate data cannot be overstated. Such data provides the foundation on which your sales and marketing teams can align their goals, inform effective segmentation strategy, and support the creation of personalized content and campaigns that influence decision-makers. In short, data is the bedrock of successful account-based marketing, and it must be among an organization’s top priorities when considering an ABM program.

Have you started running ABM programs? What other factors were critical in your program’s success? Share them in the comments below.